Parenting reveals how often you move or, more specifically how often you didn’t move before. Your understanding of motion and stillness is forever altered. You bring your baby home and there is constant motion—scurrying for burp cloths, clanging about for gum gel, scrambling for a wipe. Then they are toddlers and your jerky movements are to swipe the lit candle from their reach, moving the cushion to break their fall, and swooping in to grab them before they actually kiss the back end of the strange dog. By the time grade school comes they are getting so fast that your movements are sometimes to keep up and other times it’s to hide the emotion when they say, “I’ve got it. I don’t need you, mama.” The sensation of shattering in a million pieces of obsoleteness and hurt is crippling.
Lately I’ve been struck by the stillness. It isn’t that I’m not running around, chasing or reacting, and it certainly isn’t that they aren’t moving. It’s a new stillness, foreign and familiar at the same time. I’ve tried to put my finger on it, but in the same way my mind and body conspired to erase the specifics about childbirth, my heart has refused to acknowledge the stillness. The stillness is in Briar. The limbs I’ve long known were growing coltish, the tendrils I’ve watched soften, the face I’ve imagined growing older, the mind always questing, and the heart I know beats to love, they are undeniably marching toward older. I remember it.
The stillness, the exquisite, undeniable and heartbreaking stillness is deep inside her and radiates until I can only squint. She does not need us to talk to her, she eschews her sisters except to prove that she can assist in mothering. Her face catches me by surprise, the expanse of her flawless forehead, so pale and perfect, like when she was a baby, but more so. Then her eyes, so pale and wide, yet almost steely in their directness, an invitation and a rejection, both gut me. Her expectations have diminished, not because she has less that she is hoping for, but because she is no longer looking to me to fulfill it or believing that true joy will spring from my hand.
I want more than ever to give her every last thing, but as I learn to traverse this new stillness, I am working to cultivate one of my own. A quiet that will allow her to sit with me, unafraid that I will push too hard or linger too long. Eight, intimately connected to the idea of infinity, of a beginning and an end. I am learning and working to honor the silence as my first baby moves toward her 8th birthday.
I am letting go of my and accepting her, humbly and slowly.
8 on the 16th, my sweet Briar, you grow ever lovelier.